The confetti has fallen and long since been swept away, unfortunately in those streets of San Francisco rather than Boston. The draft is complete (JD Davison is intriguing, no?), and summer league begins soon. The NBA has moved on from the Warriors’ six-game victory over the Celtics in the Finals, and it’s time we do too. Right after one last player-by-player look back at a season we’ll all remember well, even with the what-ifs at the end …
Jayson Tatum: As I write this, the Celtics season met its end 7½ days ago. That’s roughly 180 hours. Here’s hoping Tatum slept for about 150 of those hours. The guy earned his rest, carrying a massive amount of offensive and defensive responsibility through the four playoff rounds.
Yeah, he took his lumps in the Finals, particularly in Game 6, when his inability to solve what the Warriors threw at him defensively got into his head. It was disappointing to see him weary and discombobulated with the season on the line.
But that’s often part of the process for young superstars — that last step is supposed to be the hardest — and we know Tatum will put the work in to come back even better, perhaps even with a vengeance.
Jaylen Brown: Like Tatum, his work ethic is beyond reproach. But fixing what he needs to fix — beyond his clutch free throw shooting — is more complicated than just putting in the hours in the gym.
He’s a superb scorer who bailed out the Celtics more than once during the postseason with his individual skills. But when his shot isn’t falling, what does he do to help the offense? He’s a poor dribbler for an NBA wing. He might be a decent passer if he didn’t so often have blinders on for the hoop.
Brown has come back a little bit better every season of his career, but the next step in his progression is the toughest one. He has to come back with the willingness and knowhow to make his teammates better.
Marcus Smart: Here’s something I wondered about as the Finals played on: Had a circumstance mirroring the final play of Game 1 of the Nets series — ball in Smart’s hands, clock winding down, imminent decision coming on whether to shoot or pass — presented itself against the Warriors, would Smart have made the correct decision to give up the ball again? I’m not sure.
Some of his decision-making regressed in the Finals, but that wasn’t unique to him. So should they trade him? Oh, come on, of course not. Their switch-everything defensive identity would take a huge hit, and he did quarterback the most prolific offense in the NBA this season.
Robert Williams: I believe this to be true: The Celtics would have had a parade last week had Williams not injured the meniscus in his right knee March 27 against the Timberwolves. Their defense was still good as he gamely played with, what, 60 percent of his usual athleticism, but it wasn’t suffocating.
What was weird was that his teammates still treated him as if he had his usual bounce, throwing him lobs that he would have to bring down and gather before going up.
Here’s hoping he returns to his pre-injury form, because his breakthrough might have been the biggest delight of the regular season.
Al Horford: It got kind of lost in the . . . well, loss, but the 36-year-old Horford played with the energy of a player a decade younger in Game 6 of the Finals. He scored 19 points, collected 14 rebounds, and hit three fourth-quarter threes to give the Celtics fleeting hopes of a comeback.
He was basically the same versatile, reliable player this season as he was during his first go-round here from 2016-19. He’s essential to their success, and will be very difficult to replace when he finally ages sometime around 2033.
Derrick White: His 21-point performance in Game 1 of the Finals, when he hit 5 of 8 3-pointers, felt like it happened in a different time and place by the time the series was over. White made just 1 of 10 shots over the final two games, missing all five of his 3-point attempts, as the Warriors exploited the Celtics bench’s collective struggles.
White is a well-rounded player whose unselfish nature made him a good fit, and he did have some stellar postseason performances (most notably Game 6 against the Heat), but the Celtics have to figure out a way to get him to play with more confidence.
Grant Williams: The weirdest stat line of the season? Williams’s 7-for-18 shooting from 3-point territory in Game 7 against the Bucks. They dared him to beat them, and he hit just enough to do it, scoring 27 points.
He has made himself into a valuable 3-and-D role player, but his limitations were exposed in the Finals, when he scored just 25 points total.
His new-season resolution for 2022-23 should be: “No more yapping at the refs.” I’m not sure he knows that, though.
Payton Pritchard: If his shot is falling, he can be a dynamo. If it’s not, there’s not much reason to have him on the floor. Unfortunately, he went cold when the stakes were highest, hitting just 1 of 11 3-point attempts over the last five games of the Finals. He’ll bounce back.
Daniel Theis: He had some decent playoff moments when Robert Williams was limited or out, including 11 points in 11 minutes in Game 3 against the Bucks. But he was pretty much unplayable after that; he was minus-57 from the start of the Miami series on. Bringing him back was a decent risk that didn’t work.
Aaron Nesmith: I’m a believer. He can be a 3-and-D guy — or maybe a slash-and-D guy, if the shot never comes around — if he’ll just let the game slow down a little bit. “Crash” is the most spot-on nickname for a Celtic since “Big Baby” Glen Davis.
The bench brigade: Sam Hauser is a legitimate knock-down shooter and he may be on the Max Strus trajectory. Hope he sticks around . . . Thought we might have seen one crazy garbage-time performance from Nik Stauskas where he went off for 12 points in 2½ minutes, but it never happened . . . I have no idea whether Malik Fitts can play, but I hope they keep him just for his Overzealous Bench Guy enthusiasm . . . Luke Kornet remains tall . . . If nothing else, Juwan Morgan, Matt Ryan, and Broderic Thomas collected some great memories to share with their future G-League teammates.